But it sure sounds like Dalton. Asked if there's time to get just one quarterback ready and not enough time for auditions, Gruden said, "That's a good question.
"We're not going to force feed anybody," he said. "We're assuming Dalton but if Dalton is not quite ready _ he's only (23) _ then we'll get somebody else ready."
While Jordan Palmer, Dan LeFevour and a possible free agent QB acquisition remain in the mix, Gruden argues that the best way to learn the game is to get on the field.
"Do you get better sitting on the sidelines making notes on a clipboard or do you get better playing?" said Gruden, not asking. "The way to get better is playing. If you make a mistake, you learn from it. You learn the speed of the game very quickly. You're going to have to adjust. It's hard to do that standing on the sidelines clapping your hands after a good play. If he's the guy, he's got to be that guy and learn fast.
"Guys have done that and been successful and guys have failed miserably," he said of going with a rookie. "It's not an easy position…It's a unique position for a unique individual and I know we drafted the guy with the right frame of mind and hopefully his ability will prove his worth."
Gruden has changed his tune on one thing. Last month, he was talking about having to take "baby steps" with the offense, a metaphor he rejected today.
"I've never been a less is more guy. I might have to be, but I'm going to throw a lot at them, I'd rather on game day have a lot of plays instead of wishing I had that play and this play and not having enough in. That's the way I've always been. There are pros and cons to each way. Maybe we'll have to simplify it a lot. We'll see what type of guys we have here. I don't know. I plan on challenging them and going full throttle. It will be good for our defense, it will be good for our offense. See what happens."
See what happens, indeed.
For what it's worth, I noted the following in comments on Josh's post earlier today, but it's just as relevant here. The Bengals have had 11 QBs start the season as the new starter. Here's how each of them did in their first full year as a starter (note this is how they did in their starts not necessarily the team's final record):
John Stofa (1968): 3-11
Virgil Carter (1970): 7-4
Jeff Blake (1995): 7-9
Neil O'Donnell (1998): 2-9
Jon Kitna (2001): 6-9
Greg Cook (1969): 4-9
Ken Anderson (1972): 7-6
Boomer Esiason (1985): 7-7
David Klingler (1993): 3-10
Akili Smith (2000): 2-9
Carson Palmer (2004): 8-8
I don't want to read a whole lot into this. Small sample size, lot of changes in the league over time, etc. But the takeaway for me was that in the 40+ year history of the team, no QB has won more than 8 games in their first year. And even that only happened once in 11 tries; subtract Palmer and the spread falls to 2-7 wins. And of course the only exact comparison to Andy Dalton, were he to start opening day, is Greg Cook, who won 4 games in 1969.